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Communication Breakdown, Classic Rock, TeamRock Ltd, 2 Balcombe Street, London NW1 6NW or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We regret we cannot reply to phone calls.
Last January I wrote to you claiming that rock indeed was headed towards the terminal ward. Ten months later I think I have seen the light. What a great music year. Who thought I would get to see Kate Bush? And she was beyond expectations.
The best new band I have some across since Rival Sons: Blues Pills, of course. If in 2015 they can up the quality of their songs (to Rival Sons level) they could be enormous. Album and gig of the year: the stunning Marc Ford – where was that in the list of albums of the year (can’t believe you missed the Foo Fighters’ album as well).
Other highlights: Electric Mary and The Brew at Hard Rock Hell. Prince and Jack White live… What a year.
One big moan: loved Rival Sons from day one at High Voltage, where they played twice in a day. As a recorded band they are perfect, and are absolutely the choice for album of the year, but live they try really hard to spoil every song with extended workouts and guitar noise. Guys: you write great songs and have everything. Don’t spoil it, get to the point! Oh, and a smile helps. Watching them live makes me remember why I love The Darkness – great music with a big fat smile (Queen and AC/DC are pretty good at it as well). On to 2015. Can’t wait. Now that’s a turn around!
Jonathan Jordan, via email
Glad to hear you’ve had your faith in rock restored, Jonathan. And we think 2015 is going to be even better. Just you watch this space.
THE HEAT IS ON
I was knocked out by Max Bell’s piece in issue 206 of Classic Rock on the life and tragic times of the formidable Canned Heat, which was worth the cover price on its own. I am glad that Al ‘Blind Owl’ Wilson is at last getting the respect as a blues man par excellence he justly deserves. The fact that he was a white man playing in a genre normally the preserve of southern black bluesmen probably did not work in his favour. Even Wilson’s death seemed to be overlooked, coming scarcely a few weeks before Jimi Hendrix’s untimely demise.
Still, we have the Blind Owl and Canned Heat’s powerful musical legacy to sustain us forever. Thank you for the article, and perhaps your esteemed publication might similarly feature the criminally under-appreciated Spooky Tooth one day.
Steve Griffin, County Wicklow, Republic Of Ireland
THE WONDER OF WHITLEY
Thanks for the terrific Chris Whitley article in January’s Classic Rock. Heroically overdue as it was, it was nevertheless incredibly welcome.
I discovered his music having picked up a CD single in ’95 for 25 cents in an Amsterdam record shop on a complete whim. I was pulled in by the sleeve art (drawn by his then very young daughter) and the two song titles: O God My Heart Is Ready and Liberation Or Death. I mean, that sounds like proper powerful shit, no?
Anyway, I got it home, cranked it up, and my jaw hit the floor. The first track features some of the most explosive hard psych-blues guitar playing since, well, you-know-who, and the second has an eerie, heavy menace, like Robert Johnson playing Black Sabbath. Yeah, really. And both tracks are topped off with those aching, heartbroken vocals. I was totally sold. I went out and bought the Din Of Ecstasy album not half an hour later and it remained a feature of my hi-fi for weeks. It remains one of my all-time favourite albums.
Anyhow, it came as an enormous surprise when I saw a flyer for his show at the Hanbury Ballroom in Brighton in September 2003. He was playing a handful of UK dates in support of the Hotel Vast Horizon album, and I went along both excited and a little apprehensive, as I really didn’t know what to expect from him by this stage.
My first impression was quite the shock: he was so painfully thin, and looked like he hadn’t eaten or slept for days. He was slicked with sweat before playing the first note, and I had genuine concerns for the night’s gig and, more seriously, for his very apparent health issues. I certainly needn’t have worried on the first count. As Joe Bonamassa has said, he played like four guitarists. And being backed solely by a drummer only served to amplify the intensity. I had hoped for something from Din and/or Terra, but wasn’t in the least surprised when nothing from either surfaced. I was probably only one of half-a-dozen or so who bought those two albums! The set revolved around the Rocket House and Hotel Vast Horizon albums, and was pulled off with fire and skill. He also played a couple of songs from Living With The Law, which got the best reaction of the night from the 70-odd (?) punters present, and then he was gone. Two years later, and he really was gone.
A tragic loss of a truly unique talent. So, many, many thanks once again to Paul Rees and the editorial staff at CR for helping keep his memory, and that of his music, alive.
AND A CORRECTION…
First off, I love you guys! My name is Dan Whitley, Chris Whitley’s brother. I’m contacting you about last month’s story about my brother Chris and our family. I just wanted to clear up some miscommunication regarding our upbringing and us having lived in different places. I suppose we were raised more “out-of-the-box” than most, but we never lived in a “commune”, as was stated.
Our mother was simply a super-talented, hard-working artist who juggled being a full-time working-class single mom (balancing her full-time day jobs, raising her three kids, paying the rent or mortgage, never asking for help from anyone or accepting it at times) with working on her amazing art and sculpture which truly was her identity. As it was Chris’s and is mine and Trixie’s. I just wanted people to know so they didn’t get some unrealistic slant on Chris’s upbringing.
Daniel Whitley, via email
Many apologies for any upset that may have caused, Daniel. Please consider the record put straight.